Rainbow Mexican Salad with Avocado Cilantro Dressing

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Happy November! I know everyone is posting apple, pumpkin and squash recipes (including myself), but today I am deviating from the norm to deliver this delicious, colorful salad I made last week.  I’m not going to lie, pretty much every day I’ve been eating or drinking something fall-themed – pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spice coffee and pumpkin tempeh kale burgers, just to name a few.  But last week, Southern California decided it wasn’t quite done with summer yet and LA hit 85 degrees.  Whenever it gets hot, I get an itch for some Mexican food and a margarita.  So I made this salad in an attempt to curb my craving in a healthier way and it did just the trick!

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This six-ingredient salad is light but filling and full of protein, healthy fats and colorful veggies.  It’s a great lunch option that can be quickly prepared the night before and won’t cause a 2 PM food coma.  I paired it with Minimalist Baker’s Avocado Cilantro Dressing because, let’s be honest, you can never have enough avocado.  I always need a little crunch in my salad, so I also topped it with some leftover Tortilla Chip-Crusted Tempeh by Veggie and the Beast.  If you’re looking for something a little simpler, you could top it with crumbled tortilla chips or croutons.  The end result is a creamy, crunchy, avocado party in your mouth.  Basically, the best kind of party.  So the next time you find yourself craving a light Mexican meal, try this recipe out!  I think you’ll end up doing a little avocado happy dance like I may or may not have done.

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Ingredients:

  • ~2 cups of lettuce of your choice (I used spinach, but romaine would also work well)
  • 1/3 cup corn
  • 1/3 cup black beans
  • 1/3 cup tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • Avocado Cilantro Dressing (ingredients + directions here)
  • Optional: Tortilla Chip Encrusted Tempeh (ingredients + directions here)
  • Other topping options: red bell pepper, croutons, crumbled tortilla chips or tortilla strips

Directions:

  • Rinse lettuce and place in bowl
  • Chop onion, tomato, avocado and any other toppings of your choosing
  • Drain and rinse cans of corn + black beans
  • Place vegetables on top of lettuce + drizzle on dressing
  • Add crunchy toppings of your choosing, such as croutons

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Vegan Quinoa Salad

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Happy Monday!  While y’all are trudging off to work, we’re in Michigan visiting our grandparents, being fed all-American food and watching the fall leaves change color.  Yeah, you’re jealous.  I’ll share more about our trip (and some yummy recipes!) later.

Today I’m featuring one of my favorite staple foods – quinoa!  Adam and I eat a lot of quinoa because it’s a great substitute for pasta and even sometimes meat (like quinoa black bean burgers, soooo good).  I love quinoa so much in fact that I have a Pinterest board dedicated solely to recipes involving this magical little grain.  I’m always on the lookout for new quinoa recipes that we can use now that we’re sort of vegetarians.  Yes, we’re only “sort of” because we refuse to give up sushi and sometimes when we’re really lazy we’ll eat meat, but we try to eat vegetarian as much as possible.  So when I tried this quinoa salad at a café near our apartment, I knew I needed to try to replicate it.  Thankfully I knew what ingredients they put in it, but I had no idea what amounts.  So I had to experiment a bit, but I think I figured it out because it is oh so good!

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Basically this quinoa salad is chock full of nutritious stuff, including kale, tomatoes, radishes, almonds and pumpkin seeds.  I didn’t know until recently that you could even eat pumpkin seeds.  All these years of carving jack-o-lanterns and I’ve just been throwing away little nutrient packed snacks every October!  Turns out, pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, zinc and healthy omega 3 fats.  They have a little bit of a salty, nutty flavor that we really like.  And in this salad they blend in really well with the slivered almonds, so they make a great addition of nutrients without changing the consistency of the salad!

The highlight of this dish, though, is the sauce you mix into the salad.  Made from mixing pesto and cashew cream, the sauce adds an extra depth of flavor to the salad, but is light enough that you don’t have that weighed-down feeling afterwards (like when you eat fettuccine alfredo or some other rich sauce).  If you’re unfamiliar with cashew cream, the simplified version (which I use) is you soak cashews in water for at least an hour and then blend them up!  The result is a nutty, creamy vegan sauce.  So go ahead and try this recipe and lemme know what you think!  Since nothing in it makes it too soggy, it’s a great recipe to make in large quantities and then have leftovers for meals the next day.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 3 small radishes, thinly sliced (remove and discard leaves)
  • Handful spinach or kale, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup vegan cashew cream
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 1 cup baby tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Directions:

  • Cook 1 cup quinoa in a medium pot (don’t know how to cook quinoa? Check out this link!)
  • While quinoa is cooking, chop radishes and spinach up + set aside
  • After quinoa cools, combine quinoa with cashew cream and pesto in a serving bowl
  • Add remaining ingredients to quinoa mixture, give it a quick stir and serve!

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Greens + Beans Salad

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I don’t know about you guys, but I love a good salad.  Sometimes I love them a little too much.  One of my all-time favorites is romaine, walnuts, mozzarella, craisins and balsamic vinaigrette.  It’s just a classic – in college I may have eaten one of those every day for a few months.  But while I have my favorites, I’m always looking for a new one to add to my list of salad staples.

So when I found this recipe in the newest Good Housekeeping, it immediately caught my eye.  Yes, you may wonder why I’m reading Good Housekeeping (I don’t think I fit their major demographic), but my mom got me a subscription and it actually has some really great stuff in it, especially in their recipe section.  (Thanks mom!)  This one is pretty straightforward and we already had most of the ingredients in the fridge, so I figured I would give it a shot.  It was delicious!  Massaging the dressing into the kale and brussel sprouts helps hide some of the bitterness that you might taste otherwise.

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I was also pretty excited to try out pecarino cheese.  I’d never heard of it before but I like the way the word sounds.  Even better is that there’s also a peppered pecarino cheese, which in Italian is called Pecarino Pepato.  Yeah, try not having fun saying that word.  Anyways, apparently pecarino cheese is an Italian hard cheese made from sheep’s milk.  I’ve had traditional cheese and goat cheese, but I’m not sure I’ve had sheep cheese until now.  Lemme tell you, it’s fantastic.  It tastes like parmesan but has a different flavor to it that’s a little nuttier.  I really enjoyed it!  Overall, the mixture of the kale, brussel sprouts, walnuts and cheese makes a really good Italian staple salad.  You could eat it on its own or as a side salad to a pasta dish.

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You can find the original Good Housekeeping recipe at this link.  I made a few alterations, but it’s still pretty similar!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups kale, ribs discarded + leaves thinly sliced or torn into small pieces
  • 1 cup brussel sprouts, thinly sliced
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1/3 cup walnut halves (they suggest toasted, I’m just a little too lazy for that)
  • 1 cup cubed pecorino cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

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Directions:

  • Remove ribs from kale and thinly slice or tear into small pieces
  • In separate bowl, whisk lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper + olive
  • Combine kale and liquid in a bowl + massage liquid into kale
  • Slice brussels sprouts, add to bowl + toss
  • Add can of washed cannellini beans, toasted walnuts and cheese
  • Toss all ingredients together + serve

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Do you guys have a salad recipe you just can’t get enough of?

Coconut Veggie Stir Fry

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Hello dear readers, I’m back!  I know I’ve been MIA for a few months now – it’s been a busy summer!  We had a lot of visitors, I went on a two-smoothie-a-day regimen for a month (more on that later) and I had an existential crisis about what kind of recipes I wanted to post on this blog.  So essentially, I didn’t cook much, and when I did, there was not a lot of variety.  I ate a lot of wraps and stir fry – the topic of this post.  But now that it is fall and the leaves are starting to change in other parts of the country, I’ve decided to start posting again!

So this first recipe will be about one of my staple meals of the summer, stir fry!  Adam and I usually eat stir fry about once a week.  It’s one of those meals that is relatively easy to make and packs a lot of veggies and nutrition into one meal.  Now, this is not your typical stir fry recipe.  Stir fry can take a lot of forms and this is a recipe that Adam and I have been tinkering with a lot lately.  Mainly, we started using coconut oil that we bought at Trader Joe’s to create a different flavor with the stir fry.  We weren’t sure how it would work, but combined with honey and soy sauce, it gives the stir fry a sweeter flavor than a traditional sauce.  In our opinion, it’s delicious!

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Adam and I like to vary our veggies (why eat the same thing every time?) so we tend to pick out different veggies at the store for each round.  If you want easy vegetables for your stir fry and you have a Trader Joe’s or Sprouts nearby, you can pick up a fresh pre-made pack of stir fry veggies.  Costco also sells a huge frozen pack of stir fry veggies, but we don’t like using it because the sauce almost always ends up too watery.  Some veggie staples include bell peppers, shitake mushrooms, zucchini and snap peas.  This time, we threw in some new veggies like edamame and bok choy.  We personally prefer using tofu as our protein, but this recipe can be easily switched to a chicken stir fry if you’re not a tofu fan.  Make sure to dry out your tofu before putting it in stir fry so it can soak up some more of the sauce flavor!  If you feel like you need a basic how-to on how to cook stir fry, check out this advice.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 container of tofu, cut into thin rectangles (sprouted or non-sprouted – we used sprouted here)
  • 1 cup edamame
  • 2 heads of baby bok choy, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups soy sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • 1 package of Trader Joe’s brown rice

Directions:

  • Cut and dry out tofu before starting to cook, ideally starting one to two hours prior
  • In a bowl, combine 1/2 cup soy sauce with honey in a bowl or plastic bag and add tofu to soak for a bit before cooking (it’s not an exact science, but 15-20 minutes would probably be sufficient)
  • Chop up your veggies and place in a separate bowl to be added later
  • Heat wok or pan on stovetop on medium to high heat
  • When wok is heated, add 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • When oil is heated and starts to pop, add tofu from bag and stir occasionally until browned
  • Take tofu out in a separate bowl and add second tbsp of coconut oil
  • Add vegetables to wok and cook until slightly soft
  • Add soy sauce and tofu back to mixture
  • While waiting for vegetables to soak up soy sauce, prepare brown rice
  • When the soy sauce has cooked down, turn off stovetop and let stir fry cool
  • Add stir fry to rice and enjoy!

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So readers, what does your stir fry look like? Do you have any recommendations for us to try?

Baked Coconut Chicken Strips

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After buying a large bag of coconut flakes to make energy bites, I thought I’d find another recipe that uses coconut.  I found this coconut chicken recipe at Seeded at the Table and adapted it slightly.  Mainly, I used chicken breast tenderloins so that the pieces would be more like chicken tenders.  As a child, I was obsessed with chicken tenders and chicken nuggets.  This recipe reminded me of restaurant chicken tenders without the unhealthy ingredients.  Well, I did use butter, but other than that it was pretty healthy!

What’s even better about this recipe is it doesn’t take very long to make.  You just dip thawed chicken into egg, roll it in a coconut mixture and put it in the oven!  Out come these delicious strips that have a honey flavor baked into them.  Personally, I didn’t even think they needed a dipping sauce.  We’ll definitely be making these again.

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 chicken breast tenderloins
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter (optional)

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Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.
  • Lightly beat egg in a bowl.
  • Mix coconut, almond flour, garlic powder, salt & pepper in a small bowl.
  • Dip each tenderloin individually in butter, then in the coconut mixture until coated entirely.
  • Place tenderloins on the baking sheet.
  • Optional: Melt unsalted butter and drizzle over top of tenderloins (I found that this step didn’t change the flavor much, but it did cause less of the coconut to brown)
  • Bake 30 minutes, making sure to flip tenderloins at the 15 minute mark.
  • Enjoy! We paired it with rice and salad.

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